Robert Williams III is used to adding a jolt to the Boston Celtics‘ lineup, albeit typically off the bench. However, with Daniel Theis being shipped off to the Chicago Bulls at Thursday’s trade deadline, Williams delivered his typical stat sheet stuffing production from a starting role on Friday.
In his first start of the season, Williams amassed seven points, nine rebounds, five blocks, two steals and a career-high six assists in 27 minutes of play. Williams’ strong performance helped knock off a Milwaukee Bucks team that entered the night riding an eight-game winning streak.
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Brad Stevens Praises Williams After Strong Performance
Manning a starting role, Williams wasn’t asked to shoulder as much of a scoring load as he’s become accustomed to while working with the second-unit. However, his presence was greatly felt in a variety of facets in Boston’s victory.
“I don’t think it’s the biggest surprise that scoring opportunities may not be there as much in the starting lineup just because you’re playing against the best players,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “But I thought he did a great job impacting the game with his rebounding and his passing, and he certainly is a threat down there at the rim.”
While speaking with reporters prior to the game, Stevens was reluctant to commit to Williams as a long-term starter once veteran Tristan Thompson returns to the lineup. Thompson, who had started 31 games for the Cs this year, has missed each of the team’s past seven games due to COVID-19 protocol. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of The Boston Sports Journal, Thompson is expected to remain out of the lineup for “at least a couple more games.”
While we’re not saying Williams’ performance on Friday night completely shifted Stevens’ plans one way or another in terms of how to deploy the 23-year-old big man, it’s safe to say the Williams’ comfort level working alongside the starters registered on the head coach’s radar.
“He’s got to create a great synergy with the starters as far as getting them open and getting them the right looks and those types of things,” said Stevens. “I thought he did a great job tonight.”
Williams is Just Here to Do His Job
Averaging 16.7 minutes per game entering Friday night, Williams’ 27 minutes vs. the Bucks marked just the fourth time this season he has logged more than 22 minutes in a game.
“I felt good playing more minutes, knowing that my team needed me out there,” Williams said. “The opportunity came, and I’m grateful for it and thankful for it.”
A large part of Williams’ statistical output came in the first half where he produced six rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and two steals. In return, he became the first Celtics player in the past 25 years to log at least five assists and four blocks in a single half, per the Celtics’ official team website. Only Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis and Denver Nuggets MVP candidate Nikola Jokic have accomplished such a feat over the last three seasons across the NBA.
Yet, while those types of numbers may dazzle some, for Williams, it’s nothing more than just another day at the office.
“I feel like I did what I’m put out there to do,” he claimed. “I feel like I generated a lot of energy for me and my teammates. That’s my job.”